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Fitting in

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It is recommended that we adapt to the dress codes and daily rhythm of the communities we live in, to be aware of gender issues, politeness rules and other cultural norms and conventions. However, it often turns out to be impossible and, usually, not even expected by the society we live in that we "go native" completely. In order to ensure that you can carry out your work successfully, you have to decide for yourself how far you can adapt to the way of living of the people at your field site.

Advantages and disadvantages of adaptation must be considered accordingly. Gender relations in many of our field sites differ significantly from those we may be used to. We need to be aware of what these are and not necessarily challenge them, however much we may feel they ought to be challenged.

Questions you need to know the answers to:

  • Do I know what the gender relations/expectations are in the community? Am I prepared to abide by these while there?

During my fieldwork in Ethiopia, I wore trousers and hiking boots and decided not to put on skirts and fancy women’s shoes, although this was expected of women. I considered it impossible to jump across creeks, ditches and fences and walk long distances in this inadequate clothing and broke the dress code deliberately.

-- Yvonne Treis